Before I get started, do you know what I'm talking about? When you look at rooms to rent on AirBnB, you've got a pretty exhaustive set of amenities you can filter by. You can choose to see only 1-bedroom places, with a pool, who provide shampoo...
... but the possibility of the host offering a bike (or bikes) for guests is strangely not one of them. As a host (full disclosure: we've been hosts since 2010, and AirBnB currently provides us the revenue to run Bikabout), I can tell you that I do have a carbon monoxide detector, that I don't have a hot tub (sad trombone), and that I don't employ a doorman (would be kinda sweet when the Mormon kids start canvassing the neighborhood), but I can't let you know that we provide free bikes to our guests -- in any way that is searchable. I can type it out in the paragraphs, but you can't filter for it, so you can't easily pull up only places that offer you a bike.
And you know what's easy? Check boxes. Check boxes are, like, "fresh out of community college 1-year IT Certificate Program" easy. And we've written AirBnB several times to beg for a bike check box, but they haven't responded. Somehow Carbon Monoxide Detector made the list, but free city transportation hasn't. And if you're anything like us, having a free bike to use during your visit would be a huge incentive to stay at one place versus another. One wonders if their deafness on the subject is borne of some vague fear of liability.
And Another Thing
There's a second fairly easy thing they could add to each listing, though it's not quite "check box" easy. Few things are. Follow me here for a moment... Each AirBnB listing has an address. And every bike share station in every city has now pretty much been mapped by one guy, at O'Brien Maps:
So he's got real time data on where the bike share stations are, how many bikes are at each, etc. The part that matters here is the location of each station. Since all of this data is in the same geographic information system format, AirBnB could absolutely cross-reference every rental inventory location with every bike share station, and let you filter for rentals that are within some short distance (1/4 mile?) of a bike share station. Not as easy as a check box, butquite doable for a major web company. And it would work very much like Walkscore.com, where you can type in any address, and the website will look up how close all the things you need for everyday life are to it (thus making it walkable / livable):
Hey you know what? Why don't they add a damned Walkscore filter too?! Let's make this happen.
And A Third Thing
And whiiiiile we're waving a magic wand, we'd love to see AirBnB launch a formal affiliate marketing platform. It would be wonderful if people who care about a certain kind of travel were able to go find rental recommendations curated by someone who really knew their niche. But without any sort of compensation, (cough$cough), there's really no incentive for third parties to comb through the mountains of rentals (new ones appear / old ones disappear every day) in every city and parse out the best of the best for certain segments of travelers. AirBnB does a little of that themselves -- "The Castle Collection... The Treehouse Collection." But they can't cover everything. Chip a few percent towards content curators who would be glad to go find you new customers, eh?
In the meantime, there's this: Bikabout's Lodging Directory. If you're looking for a bike friendly host that either has bikes for guests to use or is located in a great hood for biking, check out our directory with curated wish lists in all our cities! We're doing what we can, and we're doing it for free. I have to think that an affiliate program would really help others to do the same.
We're huge fans of AirBnB. We were early adopters, both as hosts and as guests. It's changed how we travel. We cannot, however, help but notice what we think should be "next" for them. They have the tools, and more than enough critical mass in the market. A few small changes at AirBnB could be incredibly powerful in helping more and more people incorporate bikes into their travel plans. The Dutch have been doing something similar since 1984 in the form of Vrienden ob de Fiets ("Friends of the bikes"), which is a listing of homes that are willing to take in cyclist travelers for a small fee. We used them in 2011 while biking through the Netherlands, in fact. They've finally gotten a website, but they're nowhere near as advanced as AirBnB. If they ever decided to go after the biking tourist market world-wide, we think they could easily steal this market from AirBnB. Just putting that thought out there...